HK leader Carrie Lam ‘sorry’ for Election Committee voting chaos, pledges to fix problem before Legislative Council poll in December

22-Sep-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:07 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader said on Tuesday she was sorry for the “serious” delays to vote counting in the city’s first poll since Beijing overhauled the electoral system, and pledged to prevent the same problems from afflicting the Legislative Council contest in December.

Two days after the Election Committee vote, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor weighed in on the hold-ups that left candidates and their staff waiting overnight for the results.

Government officers count ballots for the Election Committee poll. Photo: Sam Tsang

Government officers count ballots for the Election Committee poll. Photo: Sam Tsang

Responding to a reporter’s question about the weekend’s “apparent problems”, Lam did not hold back in her assessment of the tallying process.

“You are being very kind,” she said. “You said there appeared to be a problem, but there was definitely a problem, a very serious one indeed.

“I am sorry for the problems that arose during the vote counting, causing many candidates to have to hang around at the counting station unable to eat and sleep.”

Some 4,380 votes were cast by 6pm on Sunday, significantly fewer than in past elections, but the full set of results did not arrive until nearly 14 hours later.

According to Electoral Affairs Commission chair Barnabas Fung Wah, delays were caused by an electronic voter register that was being used for the first time, and inflexibility among those tasked with counting the ballots.

The Post has also been made aware of instances of poor communication between staff on the ground, while the handling of questionable voters also contributed to the delay.

Lam said she had been told the outcome could be expected at midnight on Sunday, when she visited the polling station in Wan Chai that morning.

She said her staff would contact the commission, the independent body responsible for organising the city’s elections, for answers.

“It may be a technical problem, a manpower problem or a training issue,” she said. “Although the Electoral Affairs Commission is an independent body, as the chief executive, I would tell those involved to improve relevant measures for future elections.”

Following Beijing’s drastic electoral overhaul, the original 1,200-member Election Committee, previously only tasked with selecting the chief executive, has been expanded by 300 seats.

It was also given new powers to nominate Legco hopefuls and send 40 people, some or all of whom can be from its own ranks, directly to the 90-member legislature.

There was also a drastic reduction this year in the electorate, falling from more than 240,000 people in 2016 mainly individuals to about 8,000, most of whom were corporate voters. Only 4,900 were required to vote in the end, with just 13 of the 40 subsectors contested.

Centrist Tik Chi-yuen was the only one of two opposition-leaning candidates to win a seat, and that only came through the drawing of lots after he and his rival for the last seat in the social welfare subsector received the same number of votes.

The outcome again prompted concerns over whether dissenting voices could still feature among the city’s political establishment, although Beijing and local authorities have insisted an opposition will be allowed as long as candidates are “patriots”.

Lam reiterated that the changes to the electoral system were designed to ensure that only those deemed patriots could hold positions of political power.

“It did not say a patriot would be shut out because of his or her political leaning or criticisms of the government,” she said. “If they [the opposition] didn’t run in the election in the first place, how can they win?”

She said there was no one-size-fits-all universal democratic system, and Hong Kong’s approach should be judged in the future on whether it had improved the governance of the city and delivered greater economic integration with mainland China.

Separately, the chief executive said she would travel to the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu on Wednesday for meetings involving officials from the Pearl River Delta provinces, as well as Macau.

Her trip is expected to conclude in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, where the National Games are under way.

Lam will appear at the closing ceremony, where the Games’ flag will be passed to her and representatives from Macau and Guangdong province, which are co-hosting the competition with Hong Kong in four years’ time.



Category: Hong Kong

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